16th of December: VS Stark
VS Stark has been reading sf since the age of eight and writing spec fic, before it was called that, for nearly that long. Writing has been supported by forays into music licensing, baking, insurance, and web design. Despite a grandfather born in the 1800s, still not a vampire.

The Right Tracks

by VS Stark

The key to living among humans successfully is attention to detail. This definition of ‘success’ means never having to flee from an angry mob. It takes some work but is, overall, far less work than providing all one’s needs for oneself.

When I first began trading with human groups, it took me some time to work out the right type of approach. I had to figure out what factors made a stranger acceptable. As a solitary traveler, I needed a glamour that made me look strong enough not to be immediately attacked, but unthreatening enough not to spark distrust. My own physical appearance so closely resembles a nine-year-old human female that I must disguise it to be taken seriously.

The shortest of interactions will tell you that a lone male, while less likely to be attacked than a lone female, will attract suspicion. Over decades of experimenting with glamours to counteract that, I found the optimal attractiveness, wealth, size, and cover story varied somewhat, but stayed within certain parameters. Usually.

One cold autumn day, heading south, I approached a small village to buy supplies. My appearance was adjusted to resemble the size and coloration of the locals. I collected the usual number of stares as I entered and looked about me. The place was too small to have an actual store, just a few houses built around a small square. A couple of men approached me to determine my intentions. They became much friendlier when I showed them my coins.

A few women, venturing into the small square, set out blankets and laid items on them for sale. One woman was quite young, just into her childbearing years. She smiled openly at me. A man of about her age hovered near her, glowering. There were a few children peering from the tiny homes. One of the boldest ventured near and was chased off by the young man. Once his back was turned, the child made such a face at him that I nearly laughed. Both of them saw my reaction. The child was pleased. The young man was not.

At the conclusion of trading, everyone was happy except for the young man. The young woman had been chatty. I had bought a belt pouch from her and complimented the work. Her smile became wider. I suddenly had the appalling idea that she either found my glamour attractive or wanted the young man to think she did.

When I was ready to leave, the young man stepped forward, clearly in a rage. “How do we know this isn’t fairy gold?” he demanded. “What if, tomorrow, it turns out to be stones?”

The first two men glanced at each other. One rolled his eyes a bit, but the other frowned and asked me “Why not stay with us tonight? Take a rest from your travels. The air feels like snow.” The tone was still friendly.

I smiled at them. “I would be happy to stay in such a pleasant village. Where shall I sleep?”

The man relaxed while I cursed inwardly. The coins were quite real. It’s easier that way. Glamours take work for me to hold this far from Elfhame. Holding my appearance all night would be unpleasantly tiring. The young man was no happier–he had wanted me gone.

After a decent evening meal and tales told around the fire, I stretched and yawned. Shown to my bed, I gave the impression of a man wanting nothing more than sleep. Not that I got any, for fear of dropping the glamour. As soon as my host began to stir next morning, I quietly packed my bedroll and made myself ready for travel. I accepted a hot drink and a small breakfast, enjoying the luxury of having them prepared for me. After a few pleasantries, I walked out of the village.

A light dusting of snow lay upon the ground. I made fresh tracks through the unbroken expanse of white. Passing the last house, I stopped near a large rock and turned to look back. The same bold child from the day before was staring at me, his mouth actually dropped open. I saw that he had followed me, stepping into my tracks. My tracks were not the size of the boots my glamour wore. They were child-sized.

Cursing inwardly, I winked at him and held up a coin. That snapped him out of his trance. “Run all over this area. Make many tracks.” I set the coin on the rock and moved around it.

He still looked shaken but mustered up a grin and nodded. I walked on. When I looked back again, he was running back and forth, filling the space with prints.

I have avoided snow ever since.

 

come back tomorrow for more...

If you like this story, watch out for VS's upcoming publications.

 

© VS Stark, 2018ff